Mini Avila is many things: competitive, tough, strong and loud. And now there is one more word that can describe the Bret Harte High School senior:
Avila, who was the goalkeeper on Bret Harte’s girls’ soccer team, was voted as the 2019 Most Outstanding Defensive Player in the Mother Lode League.
“It feels really good because, for 14 years, I’ve been working really hard,” said Avila, who hopes to continue her soccer career next year in college. “Knowing that in my last year I really stood out to all the coaches in our league feels great.”
It wasn’t just the opposing teams’ coaches who were impressed by Avila’s tenacious play, but also the players she went against as well as officials. Bret Harte head coach Scott Fairman witnessed that firsthand.
“Not a game went by without a comment from another coach or ref, not just about her play and saves, but her communication with her back line and teammates,” Fairman said. “She was really the full package as a defensive player and goalkeeper.”
Avila may have been named the Most Outstanding Defensive Player, but that could have never happened had she gone with her original plan. After finishing the water polo season in the fall, in which she also earned Most Outstanding Player honors, Avila wasn’t planning on putting on cleats and returning to the soccer field.
Figuring out whether or not to play soccer was a decision she went back-and-forth about. Avila feels she made the right call.
“I felt that I got really close with the girls and they made me really happy,” she said. “I’m really glad I decided to play.”
The Bullfrogs leaned on Avila even more than they anticipated. Bret Harte had trouble all year scoring goals, which made Avila’s goalkeeping play even more important. The Bullfrogs finished the year scoring one or zero goals 12 times. Knowing that one mistake could cost her team a game, Avila always had to be physically and mentally focused.
“When we first played Summerville, I had to protect the goal at all cost, and I had to do everything that I could to not let the ball go in,” Avila said. “You have to be really strong and not let your emotions show to your teammates. Some of the games I did let my emotions show because it was very disappointing. But, you just have to be tough and fight it out.”
Fairman added, “Mini had an incredible season with nearly 200 saves in league play. We were challenged to score this season and defense was key to our success. Mini was a huge part of that.”
Even though the offense might not be scoring, that doesn’t always mean that Avila is under a barrage of shots. Many times, she would go minute-after-minute without seeing any action. While standing in one spot for a long period of time, Avila had to come up with ways to keep herself active and ready for the game to come to her.
“I get bored all the time,” Avila laughed. “I’m either stretching, doing jumping jacks or doing something to entertain myself. When we play a team like Sonora, I’m never bored and it feels great.”
With Bret Harte struggling offensively, Fairman often rolled the dice and moved Avila from the goal to the field. The former forward returned to her position of the past like she never left, and scored a number of goals. Avila also was responsible for making a perfect corner kick as time was near expiration, which led to a game-tying goal against Calaveras in Angels Camp.
As much as Avila loves protecting the goal, she was always excited when she got to take off the gloves and run around.
“Before I played with Scott (Fairman), I was a forward and then he made me a goalie,” Avila said. “It brought back all those memories. With it being my last year at Bret Harte, it felt really good to bring it all together.”
Regardless of whether or not Bret Harte was winning or losing, that didn’t keep Avila from not only playing hard, but also talking. Being so far away from the action, Avila had to yell for her teammates to hear what she had to say. Being loud is something that Avila doesn’t shy away from.
“That’s just me,” Avila said with a smile. “I’m loud both on the field and in the classroom. It’s just my personality. Every person should have a loud friend.”
“At games and practices Mini has a big personality,” he said. “I think her teammates appreciate that and Mini led the girls on and off the field.”